When I’m stuck in a loop on one of my ideas (some people call it writer’s block) it’s often because my characters refuse to do what I require. Something in their world is just not quite right. They are missing a motivation, or a skill, or an item that would make things flow again.
At one point in Botanicaust, my characters faced yet another “flight from the bad guys.” I wrote it. And re-wrote it. Ho hum. The two of them had escaped before. They’d do it again. There was no growth or movement. It was just a plot moment, and I want my scenes to always do more.
I watched some TV. Played a game. I even actually cleaned my house.
What if my characters didn’t escape, after all? What if they died? What if I had to introduce something fundamental in this scene that needed to be included in further scenes? So I watched another movie. Ate some chocolate. Sulked.
Would this scene even work in this story? They had to get away from the bad guys, of course. But what would make the reader anxious they might not succeed?
The scene needed more tension. Higher stakes.
So I started asking questions. What would my hero value enough to raise the stakes? What if he had to choose who to save? And who, besides the heroine, would he consider gut-wrenching to lose?
Kids. There were children in the manuscript earlier I’d conveniently written out, and I realized I still needed them. My main character needed more people to protect, people he had to make choices between.
So I reintroduced the children, and they played a major role in the rest of the manuscript. Not only that, but they have become the main characters of my next book in the Botanicaust world.
If I had skipped the flight scene, I would not have enriched the rest of the story with these characters. Or I would have been forced to squeeze them into later scenes for continuity, and it would have felt unnatural. This scene with the children became one of my favorite sections in the whole book.
Do you have a favorite character moment you’ve read or written recently?
© Tam Linsey, 2011. All rights reserved.